A new statewide Student Achievement Council created by the Legislature to promote higher education has a more specific set of goals than the board it is replacing.

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The Washington Legislature has created a new council to oversee higher education, replacing the old Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB), although keeping its staff.

The new entity is called the Student Achievement Council, and it’s charged with redesigning the system of higher education in Washington state, said one of the plan’s sponsors, state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor. Legislation creating the council was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire last week.

Seaquist said the new council will have a specific set of roles and missions, unlike the HECB, which had a job description that was “wonderfully vague and unfocused,” he said.

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, a sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said one of the key differences is that the new council includes a seat for a representative from the state superintendent’s office.

That will allow the council to coordinate more effectively with the K-12 system and to have “a more robust conversation around where our education system is headed and, ideally, more buy-in,” Kilmer said.

The HECB was created in 1986, replacing a previous state-level higher-education council, and over the years accumulated “miscellaneous duties and responsibilities” that weighed it down, Seaquist said.

The new council will be charged with increasing the number of people in the state who have a college degree or earn a postsecondary certificate. The council will propose a set of goals to the Legislature and the governor, recommend resources to achieve those goals, and monitor progress toward reaching them.

It is also charged with proposing improvements and innovations to the state’s educational institutions. “They’ve got a specific charter for innovation, to look around the country at what’s going on and be a catalyst for innovation,” Seaquist said.

The council also will be an advocate, talking up the economic, social and civic benefits of postsecondary education.

It will be composed of nine members appointed by the governor, five of whom will be members of the public, including one college student. Other members will be one representative each from the state’s universities, community colleges, nonprofit colleges and K-12 schools (the state superintendent’s office).

The board will inherit most of the HECB’s staff, although the size of the staff will be trimmed slightly, saving about $250,000, Seaquist said. The transition will happen July 1.

HECB Executive Director Don Bennett will head the staff initially, but it will be up to the nine-member council to decide to keep him or hire a new executive, Seaquist said.

The legislation also creates a joint select legislative committee on higher education, giving the Legislature a more formal responsibility for oversight, he said.

The new council also will administer state financial-aid programs, as the HECB has done.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @katherinelong.